The biggest type of waste in the household may be food waste, but in business, it’s often taken a little less seriously- and wrongly so. Whether it’s unsold and out-of-date products in the catering industry, or that sandwich you didn’t finish in the office, the amount of waste produced by food is something all businesses need to be aware of. Dealing with it is a lot easier than you think! It doesn’t take too much effort; it’s just about forming healthy habits in the workplace.
The problems with business food waste
Making food requires land, water, labour, energy, manufacturing, packaging, and more to create. Throwing it away means the resources put into it are wasted. When sending it to landfills, food waste has the additional problem of rotting. Unlike other waste, food will release gases that are harmful to both the atmosphere and the land around it. Each year, 15 million tonnes of food waste is produced, making it something that needs to be addressed and dealt with far more. It also doesn’t help that food waste makes up 19% of all landfill space.
The food waste hierarchy
To do your best dealing with food waste, you must first be aware of the food waste hierarchy. The structure of this is approved by the government and recommended by them for any business and is paired with a warning to order no more food than what’s necessary for company supplies. The structure of the hierarchy is as follows:
#1 – Prevention – The simplest method of dealing with food waste is to try and reduce the amount of it in general. Limiting the production levels to only the necessary amount, as well as advising customers to purchase what they’re sure to use, will be a starting point in seeing a reduction of the waste all food produces. Buying much more than you need is a sure-fire way to waste a lot of it.
#2 – Reuse – Reusing food may seem difficult, but is accomplish-able if you focus on the right types of food. Obviously, meat isn’t going to be one for reuse, but vegetables are excellent options for use in composting, which can even lead to your workplace producing its own food if you have the space for it. Even bones can be reused as the base layer of a stock/broth for employees to make at home. Citrus fruit peels can also be used as a natural air freshener duct, many use lemons for this.
As long as you can stay creative in finding an alternate use for food, it won’t be hard to reuse what’s left for something better than sitting in a landfill.
#3 – Recycling – Normally, you can’t recycle a food item after it’s passed its sell-by date. Because of this, sometimes an alternate form of reusing is needed. The process of anaerobic digestion is to use the gases released when the food rots for energy, by placing them in an area where they’re cut off from oxygen. By doing so, it will produce bio-gases that are usable as an energy source, with the leftovers known as digestate being an option as a fertiliser.
#4 – Other recovery – Though not recommended for the environment, it is still slightly better than letting the food rot in a landfill and can at least be used as a heat source. If any of the previous options aren’t possible, then it may be seen as a possibility.
#5 – Disposal – Simply put, this is the option required if none of those previously mentioned are available. The true last resort, only to be used if nothing else works.
Dealing with food waste
There are many ways for different businesses to handle food waste depending on the profession. If you happen to work within the food or hospitality industry, separating food and normal is a good idea for reuse planning. Finding a waste collection company with a low-waste attitude and forming a partnership with them will help take a lot of the effort in dealing with this task off your hands.
A more charitable option would be donating excess food still in date to less fortunate people. Not only will they appreciate this generosity, but it will cement your brand as a very charitable one and gain a lot of public support from this.
Fun fact: France was the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, making them instead donate it to charities and food banks.
Steps to deal with them
After having figured out how to organise your waste and what methods to use, it’s time to put things into practice.
The first step is to figure out the quantity of food waste you’re producing right now. The best way to go about this would be through a food waste audit for more accurate data, as well as comparing it to similar business’ data. You can conduct a simple one at work by just counting the types of food in your bins, typing the numbers into a spreadsheet, and thinking about what the best courses of action would be.
Secondly, after knowing what types of waste you produce, you can discover what the general source of food waste in your business is. For instance, restaurants mainly produce prep and plate waste, whereas a grocery store will be mostly packaged food and produce.
Thirdly, you need to work out where the nearest collection point for your waste is and what you’re going to try to do with the waste before you resort to taking it there.
By taking all these steps of dealing with food waste into account, the amount of food waste will come to see this part of your business eat far less money from your profits and see an improvement on the environment as a whole.
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